The Low-Down on Birth ControlMar 29, 2022
The History of the Pill
The birth of hormonal birth control, in particular the pill, happened in the 1950's at a time when it was illegal or controversial to use birth control in the US.
This was in post WWII America, at a time when many women were desperate for a solution to prevent having so many babies. Can anyone say baby boom? In addition to that, some women got a taste of working outside of the home during the war and wanted a chance to prove themselves as equals among their male counterparts. And a new sexual revolution was taking place. Women wanted more freedom.
Four key players in the original creation of the pill was one of the main leader in the woman’s suffrage movement, a wealthy widow with a passion for women’s rights, a brilliant, yet controversial, researcher, and a compassionate and forward thinking Catholic OBGYN. They were met with much skepticism and criticism from fellow scientists and the church. But they succeeded in creating the little pill many of us women have taken and continue to take today.
This invention was pivotal in the path toward equality for women and it allowed for the modern world we live in to unfold. And, as with most things, we learn more as time progresses and what was a blessing for many women back then may indeed be a curse for many women today.
Before we discuss that, let’s talk about how hormonal birth control works.
How it Works
Hormonal birth control (HBC) uses synthetic hormones to alter a woman’s natural ovulation process. The hormones estrogen and/or progestin are the key players here.
When you ingest, implant, or continuously absorb these synthetic hormones, they travel to the brain where your natural stimulating hormones, FSH and LH, are made.
In the presence of adequate hormones (albeit synthetic ones), the pituitary gland slows the production of FSH and LH.
This results in little to no follicle stimulation in the ovaries (which would normally result in an egg to be ovulated) and there is no trigger to ovulate an egg. The result is suppressed ovulation and no baby.
When you suppress these hormones, you also suppress your body’s natural production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
What was quickly discovered is that if a woman has hormonal imbalances prior to starting HBC, suppressing her natural hormones can be seen as a blessing. Without hormones, you don’t get the symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
In fact, toting the pill as a cure for infertility and period problems was actually how they originally got it through the FDA since using something for contraception was so controversial at the time. The trend for using the pill for period problems outside of contraception continued and is incredibly strong today, with more women being prescribed it for those reasons that for simply preventing pregnancy.
When It’s Time to Have “The Talk” with Birth Control
You desire to have a baby
If you are thinking about having a baby in the next 3-12 months or you want to know if your body can bounce back and be fertile years down the road, it is an obvious step to break up with birth control.
What many women don’t realize is that birth control depletes key nutrients that are essential for thyroid and hormonal health, fertility, and for baby to be healthy. These nutrients are often needed early on in pregnancy at times when most women don’t even know they are pregnant. If you are on or have been on birth control, I recommend you replenish your body with the following nutrients:
They include: folate, vitamin B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E, selenium, zinc, and magnesium.
Because it can take time for your hormones to rebalance after being suppressed, for your body to detox the synthetic hormones, for your liver to heal, and for these nutrients to be replenished, I recommend not trying to conceive for at least 3 months after breaking up with birth control.
Taking it for hormone problems
There is no doubt that HBC was pivotal in giving women reproductive freedom. And I am not against a woman taking birth control, even the pill, if they aren’t yet ready or have no desire to have a baby. The important thing to ask is:
Why am I taking birth control?
If the answer is to fix a hormonal or period problem, I recommend you dig further and see if there are other solutions.
To many doctors, the pill and hormonal birth control is often seen as a “cure-all” for many female issues. It is often the first-line drug of choice for acne, painful periods, PCOS, endometriosis, irregular periods, late periods, heavy periods, light periods…almost any period issue.
This is because it suppresses your own hormonal rhythms. If you are having a hard time in that area, it covers up any symptoms your body is experiencing. On the surface this seems like a great situation.
Unfortunately, using the pill and other forms of HBC to regulate period problems is like unplugging the fire alarm in the middle of a fire. It might help temporarily, but it won't solve the root of the issue.
In fact, there's a good chance HBC will only increase the hormonal imbalances in your body and cover up important clues your body is giving you that something needs to be addressed.
You are experiencing Side Effects
The pill is not without side effects. Many women experience weight gain, headaches, hair loss, depressed mood or flat affect, low libido, digestive issues, severe nutrient deficiencies, and in some situations, compromised fertility. Who you choose as a mate is even influenced by the pill. The list of side effects while taking HBC is long. There is also a phenomenon that can happen when a women decides to get off birth control, called Post-Birth Control Syndrome or Post-Pill Syndrome.
This is the myriad of symptoms experienced as the body transitions from hormonal suppression to production. It can often result in missing or late periods, acne, hair loss, weight issues, severely heavy or painful periods, mood issues, and almost any other potential hormonal imbalance you can imagine. This is made worse if the underlying issues contributing to a hormonal imbalance prior to HBC were not addressed before discontinuing it.
What To Do To Support Yourself
Whether you are thinking about preparing for a baby, are experiencing unwanted side effects, or simply want your monthly cycles back, you may want to think about having “the talk” with the pill.
Before you do, I recommend you download my free Breaking Up with Birth Control™ Checklist and consider getting support from a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor to rebalance your body prior to pulling the pill or other forms of HBC. And, as with everything, this is not medical advice and you must always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your health.
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